Flip-it! Turn Your Pack Around Fast!
Guiding Girl Scout backpacking trips all summer long requires mastering the art of the quick turnaround. Here’s a thorough, no-stress plan to help you transition efficiently from one trip to the next.
Plan Ahead and Prepare
This may be my favorite Leave No Trace principle, and the mantra serves us well in the Backpacking Trip Transition Department too. At the season's onset, set yourself up for super efficiency:
Packing: Print and label a Comprehensive Gear List for each of your trips. As you process and re-load your pack, check the items off the new list.
Navigation: Purchase, print, or dig out all your maps for each summer trip. If you’re also using Gaia, or another phone app, download all necessary maps to your device.
Garmin Devices: Download the Garmin Express app to your computer for easy updates, syncing, and charging.
Food: Create a Meal Plan for each trip. For the biggest time-saver, stock your pantry with your favorite oatmeal, Starbucks Via coffee, bars, freeze-dried veggies, tuna, etc., and fill your freezer with an array of dehydrated food.
Clothing: Permethrin your hiking clothes to repel mosquitos and ticks. One application lasts for 6 weeks, or 6 washings, which should get you through the worst of the bug season in California.
Consumables: Stock the commissary (your closet) in bulk for quick re-packing of supplies. Purchase a summer’s worth of travel-sized toothpaste, lighters/matches, biodegradable soap, mosquito repellent, water filter cartridges, batteries, stove fuel, daily contact lenses or 2-ounce bottles of saline solution, extra hiking socks, permethrin, and so on.
Get To Work
First things first. After enjoying the après-trip shower, the guacamole and chips, the pie & ice cream, and indulging in a good night’s sleep — get right to work flipping your pack around. Find a good staging area with a bucket for trash and a laundry basket for your dirty clothes. Keep pen and paper handy to write down any items that need to be purchased or fixed before the next trip. (A broken water filter, a new pair of socks, mend a zipper….)
The real trick here is to not create languishing piles of gear. Process your kits immediately, and return them to your pack directly. Check it off on a fresh Comprehensive Gear List so you know, at a glance, what is in your pack.
Trash: Absolutely the first to go! Dump your potty trash and toss the stuff sack and Kula Cloth into your laundry basket. Clean any lingering food wrappers from your pack's hip pockets and lid. Re-stock hand sanitizer or bio-degradable soap. Re-stock toilet paper/wipes and a trash baggie. After the laundry is finished, put your potty kit accouterments in the clean stuff sack and into your pack
Clothing/Textiles: Pull out all your manky clothes, bandannas, pack towel, kitchen sponge, mosquito netting, and stuff sacks — send them straight to the washing machine. Don’t forget to wash your hike-out clothes, which might still be hiding in a duffel bag. Place them straight from the dryer into your backpack.
Puffy Jacket: Hang up to air out, or if that’s not going to do the trick, place 2nd in line for a delicate load and wash with Woolite. Dry your puffy on low with 2 tennis balls to keep its loft and fluff.
Sleeping Bag: Turn inside-out and hang it on a clothesline or over a chair to air out. Save washing your bag until the end of the season, if necessary. I wait to stuff my sleeping bag into its stuff sack until a day or two before my next trip, so the fill isn’t compressed longer than necessary.
Sleeping Pad: Wipe clean, or wash with mild detergent. If it doesn’t smell grubby, just sling it over the same clothesline/chair to dry/air out. Once dry, roll and pack.
Water Bladder: Empty and hang upside-down to dry. For a deeper clean, purchase a long wire brush, and using a little bleachy water, swab any mildew collecting in the hose or bite valve. Once dry, slide the empty bladder back in your pack.
Water Bottles: Directly into the dishwasher (upper rack), along with your…
Kitchen Gear: Cook pot goes into the dishwasher queue, along with your bowl, cup, and spoon. Re-stock the matches/lighter for your stove, put your soap and freshly cleaned sponge in a snack-sized Ziploc bag, then load your kitchen back into your pack.
Flashlight/Headlamp: Do your batteries need changing? Do you need to replace your spare set of AAA batteries in your emergency kit? Take care of business and pack it now.
Tent: Maybe you shake and air it out, or perhaps it needs a rinse with the hose. Either way, make certain it is completely dry before re-packing into your backpack. Check to see that you still have all your tent stakes.
Water Filter System: Replace the cartridge, if necessary. Air out the filter and/or cartridge on a counter, then pack it right back into your backpack when dry.
Sundries: Assess, restock, and re-pack your sunscreen, biodegradable soap, lip block, mosquito repellent, toothpaste, and daily contact lenses or saline solution.
First Aid Kit: Re-stock if necessary and re-pack.
Bear Canister: Empty and wash. Throw away the trash, and save any redeemable food. When you’re ready, use your trip meal planner to re-stock next trip’s food straight from the pantry.
Paperwork: The Girl Scout trip leader’s 11th essential. At the beginning of summer, pack each trip’s participant health forms in separate Ziploc bags along with the trip permit and Safety Management Plan. Mark each bag of completed paperwork with the trip name for easy recognition. After each trip, pull out the old bag and replace with the new.
Maps: Like your paperwork, keep your stack of trip maps handy, so you can make an immediate switch in your pack.
Garmin Device: Unclip from your pack and plug it in to charge. After charging, plug your Garmin into your computer (or use your computer to charge) and sync for updates. Send a test message the day before you leave. Clip to your pack once again.
Patches: If you’re lucky, you have council issued patches for trip recognitions. Likely, you will need to order in advance or pick up en route to the trail head at a ranger station. If I can procure patches in advance, I pack them in advance in my paperwork packet.
Wilderness Permit: If you receive permits through the mail, or email, slide them in your ready-to-go paperwork packets. Otherwise, picking up a permit is done en route to your trailhead, along with those patches.
Compass, Knife, Whistle, Trekking Poles, Potty Trowel, etc.: Some items can just live in your pack in their assigned pocket. No need to remove and replace.
Go Bag: Pack your boots and freshly cleaned hike-in clothes in a small bag. Before taking off for the next trip, put in a clean after-trip shirt & shorts, and a pair of comfy shoes, for the ride home. Possibly add a small clean-up kit and a sweatshirt for air-conditioned road stops on the way home.
Good preparation is always the key to a trip’s success — both on and off the trail. Set yourself up for a summer of smooth transitions, then hike out and enjoy your line up of awesome Girl Scout adventures!
Valerie is the founder of CAGS Backpackers and a Lead Backpacking Trainer for Girl Scouts San Diego. She has backpacked for over 40 years and spent the last 20 years guiding Girl Scouts on wilderness trips.